So many people want to learn English that the Central Alberta immigrant centre now has a waiting list of about 100 people.
Frank Bauer, executive director of Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE) in Red Deer, said Wednesday that they hope to expand their English as a Second Language (ESL) classes again next year. They now have a total of 195 adult students each day attending ESL classes.
In April, CARE added late afternoon classes, triggered by the Syrian refugee influx early this year, when about 200 Syrians arrived in Red Deer. Between 60 and 70 adult immigrants who arrived then are in their classes.
However the vast majority of people that come to Canada are economic immigrants who have skills and education that are needed in Canada, Bauer said.
“The same applies to Red Deer. … The majority have some English skills.”
Bauer said that since September alone they have assessed about 50 people wanting to learn English. They are included in those on the waiting list. The goal for many is to get enough English so they can become Canadian citizens, get a job, or take some post-secondary education.
CARE now offers seven morning and seven afternoon classes, and two late afternoon classes. Each day time class runs for 2.5 hours. Basic listening, speaking, writing and reading of English is taught. Students will attend for two to three years normally.
The largest portion of funding for CARE ESL comes from the federal government and classes are offered free. Some classes are funded by Lifelong Learning Council program in Red Deer, and a small fee is charged.
CARE is hoping to expanding their ESL program because the number of immigrants coming to Red Deer continues to grow, Bauer said.
One of the challenges of those taking the classes is the need for child care. The child care offered at CARE is at capacity and they are looking into working collaboratively with child care providers in the community, he said.
Many families need child care so they can take ESL classes, he said.